On Sunday in Ottawa, first-year Alexandria Glens head coach Carl Robillard got his first opportunity to work with a number of his players and prospects, as the junior ‘B’ hockey club held its first summer workout session of 2020.
While there has been plenty of off-ice hockey business since the 2019-20 season ended in late February, the COVID-19 pandemic shelved plans for any official team functions, until last week, when Ontario government and Hockey Canada restrictions were loosened.
Robillard was named to the post of head coach for the Glens in late May. Since then, general manager Derick Viau has added to the staff, pegging David Morash and Jason Bélanger as assistant coaches of the team for the 2020-21 season.
On the player side, Viau has been busy signing individuals, including goaltender Tanner Gillies, who hails from Orleans. The 2003-born player, backstopped the Navan Grads U18 ‘AAA’ team last season, recording a 2.78 goals-against average.
The general manager has also announced the signing of two defencemen, Tanner Legue (also with the U18 Grads last winter) and Braden Legue (who’s returning to the Glens for a second campaign). The Legue boys, aged 17 and 19 respectively, are brothers, hailing from Green Valley.
Another blueliner inked this spring by Viau is Patryk Kostrzewa. The 18-year-old D-man skated for the U18 Ottawa Jr. Senators U18 ‘AAA’ squad last season.
On the trade front, Reese Donnelly was dealt to the Winchester Hawks to complete a multi-player transaction from November 30, 2019. The 18-year-old forward from Orleans split the 2019-20 junior ‘B’ hockey season between the Char-Lan Rebels and their northern cousins, recording 13 points in 34 games.
Meanwhile, the Glens welcomed, from the Hawks, a new forward, as 2001-born Kyle Green was picked up. The Clarence native had 14 points in 44 games with the Winchester club last winter.
Coach Robillard tells me that he was pleased with Sunday’s first skate, adding that there was a bit of rust on the boys due to the long layoff from skating. He plans to make this a weekly event, leading up to the late-August training camp.
Glengarry County’s Remi Elie has been a professional hockey player at the NHL and AHL levels for the past five seasons, the last two of which have been spent in the Buffalo Sabres organization, primarily as a member of the AHL-affiliated Rochester Americans.
The truncated 2019-20 campaign saw the 25-year-old left winger play exclusively with the Amerks, suiting up for 34 games, and recording 13 points and 10 penalty minutes.
The team’s (and his) season came to an end in March, when the AHL season was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this summer, the remaining games and playoffs were cancelled.
While the Amerks were poised for an extended run in the post-season, standing second in the North Division at the season stoppage, the Sabres were a disappointment, finishing 25th of 31 teams in the NHL. Buffalo recently learned that the club would be one of seven that would not have a berth in the upcoming (expected?) NHL playoffs.
On June 16, the Buffalo Sabres “announced the team has relieved Jason Botterill of his duties as general manager. Senior Vice-president of business administration Kevyn Adams has been named general manager” to replace Botterill.
From the announcement, attributed to owners Terry and Kim Pegula: “This decision was made after many candid discussions with Jason during a full review of our hockey operation. We recognized we have philosophical differences regarding how best to put ourselves in a position to compete for a Stanley Cup. So, we decided to make this change.”
On the naming of Adams to the post, the owners add that the staff will take the appropriate time to “reconfigure our hockey operations. We have the benefit of this long 2020 pause to take time to reorganize and re-energize our hockey department. We recognize the importance of this offseason with so many player decisions to be made.”
Ralph Krueger has been named to the post of head coach, with the organization’s entire coaching group of last season having been dismissed.
The Lower St. Lawrence Minor Hockey League, the region’s loop for house league teams, has announced its top teams from the truncated 2019-20 season.
Regular-season champions, by division, were South Stormont atom B2, Cornwall atom C1, Char-Lan peewee B, South Stormont peewee C1, Alexandria bantam B, and Char-Lan midget B1.
The midget Rebels recorded 38 points on the season, four better than the South Stormont Selects. Char-Lan actually had two squads competing in the five-team division, with the Rebels #2 team placing fourth. Playoffs had begun before the Hockey Canada-mandated stoppage. In four games, Char-Lan 1 was perfect, outscoring their opponents 25-8.
At the bantam level, the Glens were a perfect 24-0 during the campaign, scoring 181 goals while allowing 54 against. Char-Lan finished in second place, 18 points behind Alexandria. The playoffs began before the COVID-19 shutdown, with the Glens suffering their first loss of the season against 3 wins. Char-Lan managed just a single point in their four playoff games, while the Akwesasne Wolves prevailed in all four of theirs to take top spot after the round-robin. Alexandria placed second, followed by Cornwall 2.
Char-Lan’s peewees won the regular season with 39 points, with South Stormont and Cornwall in second and third, respectively. Alexandria was fourth, followed by Akwesasne. The incomplete playoff round-robin saw the Selects notch a 3-0 record, while the Colts, on three games played, and the Rebels (4 GP) were a point behind. The Glens were winless in four games.
The LSLMHL also announced teams winning sportsmanship awards, based on fewest penalty minutes. The winners were Char-Lan atom B1, South Stormont atom C1, South Stormont peewee B, NGS peewee C, South Stormont bantam B2, and South Stormont midget B1.
What’s old is new again, as the saying goes. The Central Canada Hockey League 2 has become the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League, with junior ‘B’ hockey’s local loop returning to its roots.
Back in 2015, the CCHL2 was launched with fanfare, created from the ashes of the EOJHL. At the time, sources told me change was afoot amongst the existing junior ‘B’ hockey clubs which comprised the EOJHL. The Ottawa-based teams were looking to form a new league, aligned with the junior ‘A’ CCHL, while the remainder of the clubs from Alexandria through to Gananoque explored going on without them in a smaller junior ‘B’ league.
Longtime followers of the league would remember that back then there were two conferences, each with two divisions, and a total of 22 teams. Remember the Akwesasne Wolves, Morrisburg Lions, and Gananoque Islanders, among others? These clubs were left out when the CCHL2 was formed.
In April of 2015, I reported in The Glengarry News that the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League would cease operations.
Clubs interested in being part of the CCHL2 had to apply with the clear understanding that those behind the new league wanted to reduce its number to 16. As well, the teams had to commit to providing a CCHL-like (junior ‘A’) experience for players.
Both the Alexandria Glens and Char-Lan Rebels were successful in garnering franchises in the CCHL2. Over the ensuing five seasons, administratively, the junior ‘B’ league was largely run by those behind the junior ‘A’ hockey in Eastern Ontario, as was the U18 league which they took over as well.
Kevin Abrams served as commissioner of the leagues for this stretch, and with the 2020 rebrand, he hands the baton for the EOJHL to Sean Marcellus, who previously worked as director of hockey operations for the leagues.
“I take great pride in being named Commissioner of the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League. I originally had my first hockey job in the old EOJHL working with the Arnprior Packers back in 2012 so to be able to take the reigns at the league level in 2020 is very exciting for me. Working alongside Kevin Abrams has benefited me in more ways than I can explain, he gave me a chance five years ago and his leadership and direction has prepared me greatly for this position. I am very thankful to our board of governors for showing confidence in me and I am excited at being tasked at helping lead this league in a positive manner moving forward.”
Sean Marcellus statement
From the league’s announcement of the change: “For the past five seasons, the CCHL2 has evolved into a top developmental league for the CCHL and levels above. That will continue with the new EOJHL but with a focus on independence as a league with 11 of the 16 teams operated without CCHL ownership.”
It is perhaps that word ‘independence’ that elicits the most curiosity, as one wonders how that will play out for the 2020-21 season and beyond. Part of the CCHL2’s raison d’être was its tight connection with junior ‘A’ hockey in Eastern Ontario. This relationship included clubs signing agreements with CCHL teams to facilitate the development and exchange of players. This went so far as some combined training, at least in the case of the Char-Lan Rebels (junior ‘B’) and Cornwall Colts (junior ‘A’).
The former EOJHL was entirely independent of the CCHL, though clubs at the two levels did find ways to work together. It wasn’t uncommon, for example, to have a player signed to a junior ‘B’ card playing a handful of games at the junior ‘A’ level.
So indeed, this change may end up being a return to the past in many ways. But I wouldn’t bet on a return of any of the lost teams, the ‘B’ in the league’s name, or face cages (remember those?)
Meanwhile, work towards the on-ice product continues, as teams recruit players and plan for their 2020 training camps, scheduled for later this summer.
On March 14, the hockey season came to an abrupt end across the country, as Hockey Canada announced the immediate suspension of all activities in response to health advice related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Amongst the groups affected was the North Glen-Stor Minor Hockey Association, which saw games cancelled, and eventually the remainder of the playoff season. Along with that came the cancelling of the traditional end-of-season celebration, where awards are handed out. So for 2020, the honourees were recognized virtually.
Using the group’s Facebook page, players and volunteers across the association were honoured.
Here are the special award recipients (NGSMHA graphics)…
The Alexandria Glens of the CCHL2 have a new head coach, and his name is a familiar one in local hockey circles, as Carl Robillard has been named to the post to guide North Glengarry’s junior ‘B’ hockey team into the 2020-21 season.
The Wendover resident has an extensive coaching background at the top level of minor hockey.
As Robillard puts it, “I actually know many of the players on the current roster and others who will compete for roster spots on this team.”
The new bench boss notes, “Although there are definite changes on the horizon, I know there is potential for this group of young men. We expect to ice a young team with a sprinkle of key veterans to help lead the way. Our goal is to make the playoffs this coming season while establishing a reputation within the league as being a very hard team to play against every single night. This is a staple of my teams from the past and this team will be no different.”
On what he predicts for fans, Robillard says, “We will bring a mix of skill, speed, and compete in all phases of the game. Once we build our young core, we expect to compete for a championship for years to come. That is our ultimate goal once the puck drops to start our season.”
In announcing the new head coach of the Glens, general manager Derick Viau described the 50-year-old Robillard as “a bright coach and great leader who has a track record of both effectively developing young players and successfully motivating veterans.” He added, “We love his coaching resume and are confident that he has learned from every stop during his career, and has the best skill set to get the maximum potential out of our team.”
Viau was my guest for the inaugural edition of the sportsguysean podcast:
Note, this podcast episode can be found on various hosting services, including Spotify and Breaker. Current and prospective members of the Glens can leave me a voice message on Anchor, and the clip may find its way into a future episode of the sportsguysean podcast. Be sure to follow the sportsguysean podcast on your favourite app or platform.
In addition to taking the helm of the junior ‘B’ Glens, Robillard will serve as head coach of the Eastern Ontario Wild major bantam ‘AAA’ team during the 2020-21 this season.
Viau notes that his new bench boss “has over 12 years of coaching experience” and “his coaching philosophy is pretty simple… [building] around these three basic principles: TEAM FIRST, HARD WORK, and DISCIPLINE.”
The general manager, who’s entering his second year in that capacity with Alexandria’s CCLHL2 hockey club, says, “In order to achieve these principals, Carl strives to build an environment that encourages players to learn and develop on and off the ice, while creating a positive learning atmosphere in both good and hard times. All players need to be given the opportunity to develop their skills in a structured and disciplined learning environment that constantly challenges them while providing encouragement and support. He firmly believes that, when dealing with highly motivated and committed athletes, strong communication skills in both a group and/or an individual setting is the cornerstone of any coach’s responsibility.”
Robillard’s coaching resume includes…
2014-15 regular-season championship with major peewee ‘AAA’
2014-15 playoff championship major peewee ‘AAA’
2014-15 provincial silver medal
2014-15 OEMHL ‘AAA’ Coach of the Year
2015-16 regular-season championship minor bantam ‘AAA’
2015-16 playoff championship minor bantam ‘AAA’
2015-16 Toronto Marlies Holiday Classic ‘AAA’ Championship
2017-18 TELUS Cup Central Region Midget ‘AAA’
2018 OHL drafted players: 10 from the Eastern Ontario Wild and 6 from the Hawkesbury Hawks
The new Glens head coach recently connected with some of his players by way of video conference.
Prior to the announcement of Robillard taking the team’s coaching reins, the Glens announced that last year’s head coach, Marc Rousseau, would not be returning. “We thank him for his time served with us [and wish him] best of luck in future endeavours.”
The Glens also parted ways with their assistant coaches, Marco Pozzebon and Stephane Ouellette.
Subject to Hockey Canada rules regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alexandria CCHL2 Glens have scheduled their 2020 training camp for the Glengarry Sports Palace, beginning August 22.
It may be the off-season, but the business of hockey continues for the Eastern Ontario Super Hockey League, albeit a little differently than in a normal year where we aren’t contending with the COVID-19 pandemic.
With all that has been going on in the world of late, it seems as though the season for the Alexandria Glens concluded a lifetime ago. Officially, the team’s 2019-20 CCHL2 campaign ended on February 25, with a 5-1 victory on home ice over the Athens Aeros.
It was one of few bright spots on the season that saw the Glens win just 9 of 44 games. The squad lost 31 in regulation time and a further 4 in either overtime or a shootout.
Following the team’s final contest of the winter, I interviewed alternate captain Nico Pozzebon and first-year general manager Derick Viau.
As Viau notes, it was right back to business looking towards next season. Little did he and the players know at the time what was in store for them and us in the weeks that followed.
In mid-March, we learned of the passing of Mike (Michel) Depratto. He was key in saving the Glens a few years back, leading a group of individuals who established the club as a community not-for-profit entity.
“It is with a heavy heart that we have just learned of the passing of Mike Depratto. He was involved in keeping the Glens in the community and he was HEO’s current 1st VP. He will be truly missed in the Community of Alexandria and Hockey.”
Alexandria Glens statement, March 14
A Hockey Eastern Ontario note, attributed to minor president Gary Hopkins, probably summed it up best: Depratto’s “contributions to hockey in Eastern Ontario cannot be overstated, but more importantly he has been a friend and a mentor to many of us on a personal level. We will miss him.”
The unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic altered plans for the Glens during the off-season as well, with the team having to cancel its annual team banquet and awards ceremony. Instead, award-winners were announced remotely.
Most Improved Player: #17 Elijah Boisvert
Glens Manager’s Trophy for Top Scorer: #11 Nico Pozzebon
Glens Sportsmanship & Ability Award: #8 Zachary power and #16 Ryan Leonard
Glens Leadership Trophy: #11 Nico Pozzebon
Glens Best Defenceman: #21 Nicolas Ouellette and #12 Zachary Bigras
Ernest Bellefeuille Award: #28 Alexim Veilleux
President’s Trophy for MVP: #11 Nico Pozzebon
From the general manager’s perspective, his first foray into leading a junior ‘B’ hockey club was a whirlwind, with Viau telling me that he has nothing but pride for all the players who contributed to the Glens over the course of he 2019-20 season.
Looking Towards the 2020-21 Campaign
General manager Viau’s to-do list is a lengthy one. Initially, a spring skate for players and potential Glens was planned, but that had to be nixed due to the hockey shutdown.
Regardless, planning for the new season had to continue. Online recruitment for the team’s August (hopefully) camp has been set up on the Glens website and can be accessed here. The team invites hockey players ages 16 through 20 years old to sign up or contact the general manager (firstname.lastname@example.org or at 613-360-0077) for more information. Payment of camp fees has been waived until further notice.
In terms of staff behind the bench, the Glens are looking for an equipment manager / trainer. Anyone interested should contact Viau.
Last year’s coaches – Marc Rousseau, Stephan Ouellette, and Marco Pozzebon – were slated to return for a second kick at the can, but the team has since parted ways with the trio. (See the updated story here.)
As things stand now, the Glens camp is scheduled to begin in late August, followed by the CCHL2 pre-season and regular season in September.
The hockey shutdown mandated by Hockey Canada in March curtailed the league’s 2019-20 playoffs in the second round, meaning there was no league champion declared.